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Feeding Innovation at Third Coast Inside the Texas Medical Center

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Five months after the doors to Trevisio closed, new doors opened up to a beautifully designed space that is now home to Third Coast on the sixth floor of the Texas Medical Center (TMC). The Houston Press attended a special chef's tasting Tuesday to understand what it means to "Feed Innovation."

"There's nothing like what's right outside these windows at Texas Medical Center. We have the largest collaboration of hospitals and life science institutions for research and education in the world. We're not the East Coast or the West Coast; we're the Third Coast," said TMC president and CEO Dr. Robert C. Robbins in his address to the group. In a printed statement, Robbins wrote: "Third Coast is a destination where the world's entrepreneurs and change-makers can come together to feed their hunger for innovation."

The menu was described as "modern Houstonian." The restaurant wanted dishes that were representative of the local community and culture, said executive chef Jon Buchanan. "Our menu draws on the diverse flavors of Houston's culinary melting pot, including Asian, Hispanic, Native American, Czech-German and good-old Texan influences," and highlights "natural, sustainable and local ingredients." 

In-house specialties include kimchi, ice cream and meats that are fermented, smoked and cured. Third Coast uses local purveyors such as Houston Dairymaids, 44 Farms, Atkinson Farms and Homestead Gristmill.

The 13,500-square-foot restaurant was vast, with cushioned armchairs and booths draped in dark gray leathers and criss-cross and tweed patterns. There are two large private enclosed dining areas and an outdoor patio. The bar was the focal point of the restaurant, set toward the middle near the entryway, and offers six specialty cocktails, ten local beer and spirit selections, 17 wine selections by the glass and more than 115 bottles on the wine list. Sommelier David Cook and his bar staff were on hand to answer questions. 

Each plate was dressed in bright, vivid hues of red, orange and green.  The star of the show arrived as the second course. The ahi poke was nestled inside the freshly cracked coconut shell, where toasted coconut shavings were tucked among thin slivers of mango, red and green onion, and silky avocado.

Dessert brought silence to the tables. A delightful trio of apple tart with brown butter ice cream and caramel sauce, strawberry shortcake with fresh-cut strawberries and sticky toffee pudding with brandy snap and whipped cream showcased Buchanan's baking wizardry. The sticky toffee pudding was incredibly moist, and the brown butter ice cream was buttery and creamy.

Cook paired each of the five courses with a wine from the restaurant's cellar almost perfectly. The 2014 Jackson-Triggs Reserve Vidal Icewine deserved to stand alone as another course, not paired with the dessert trio. With notes of apricot and lychee, the Icewine finished with a lingering sweetness of overripe mango and was by far the most decadent item on the menu for the evening. The 2015 Teutonic Wine Co. "Sprockets" Scheurebe/Huxelrebe Pinot Noir, paired with the red snapper, was an interesting surprise.  Usually a pinot noir is considered a red wine, being dark red in appearance. Cook explained that this particular white pinot noir was very hard to find and was created using "red wine grapes that had been peeled." The wine was a light amber shade and smelled of baked apples and pears, closely resembling a Riesling.

Third Coast officially opens to the public on the morning of October 6 at 7 a.m. for breakfast. Regular hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. 

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